Black widows: Russians hunt potential Sochi bombers

Fears raised over safety of Sochi Winter Olympics as police continue search for widow of militant

Russian police in Sochi
(Image credit: 2012 Getty Images)

THE hunt for three women suspected of planning terrorist attacks at the Sochi Winter Olympics has put one of the country's most feared spectres back in the spotlight - the so-called "black widows".

The nickname has been given to female suicide bombers who have in the past committed many of the Russia's worst terror attacks in revenge for the deaths of their husbands.

Russian police believe at least one of the women suspected of planning an attack at the Winter Games is the widow of an Islamic militant. Ruzanna Ibragimova, 22, is believed to have penetrated the 1,500-mile "ring of steel" security encompassing Sochi and surrounding areas almost two weeks ago.

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Ibramigova, from Dagestan in the North Caucasus region, apparently walks with a limp and has a 10cm scar on her left cheek. Her husband was killed by Russian forces last month.

Police were less clear about the whereabouts of the other women, identified as 26-year-old Zaira Aliyeva and 34-year-old Dzhannet Tsakhayeva, saying only that the suspects "are probably among us".

Posters circulated by police warn that the women may be hiding in plain sight by substituting Western clothing for their traditional Islamic clothes.

NBC News terrorism analyst Evan Kohlmann said the fact that police have put up posters of the women suggests "gaping holes in security right now in Sochi".

Russia has mounted an intense security operation ahead of the Games, which take place between 7 and 23 February. However, concerns remain about "soft targets" outside Olympic venues including buses and tourist facilities that are vulnerable to attack.

Two US warships will be on standby in the Black Sea when the Games begin, reports the BBC. Washington has also offered to supply Russia with hi-tech equipment to help detect improvised explosives.

Female suicide bombers have been blamed for several previous attacks in the country, including bombs outside a rock concert and a subway station in Moscow and an attack on two Russian airliners.

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